Nervous, jittery laughter filled the aluminum overcast plane as a slew of lucky passengers — including three veterans — geared up for a 30 minute flight across Central Oregon Thursday. The B-17, a 34,000 pound bomber that was built for, but escaped, World War II, lifted into steadfast flight as the crew and passengers bumped, rumbled and soared 1,500 feet high across the high desert landscape.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has brought the B-17 to the Bend Municipal Airport for three days worth of flights. It is one of the last remaining original B-17's still able to soar... and soar it did.
Outfitted with four propellers which were manually started for a "warm up" the bomber, very much a mechanical feat, boasts exposed cables that run throughout the narrow interior and control its moving parts. Machine guns stationed and ready for battle, dot the length of the plane and lucky passengers were able to take turns as they sat upfront in the gun runners seat that would have stationed a soldier more than 72 years ago.
Larry Arnold, 71, a U.S Navy vet reminisced about his uncle, a gunner in the war, who would tell stories about the planes and guns shooting at him. For him, it was a once in a lifetime experience to see history in action. Pilot Shawn Knickerbocker noted the immense amount of history and connection the plane has for people, from veterans to younger generations anxious to see still a piece of history. The plane, originally built in 1945 for the U.S Army Air corps has been used in a variety of ways over the past few decades, from aerial mapping and forest fires.
Enthusiasts can take their own tour of history this weekend, before the B-17 moves on to Eugene. But beware, it's a bumpy and can be somewhat of a nausea-inducing thrill... but well worth the experience.
Bend Municipal Airport
EAA Members $435
$10: Individual Rate
$20: Family Rate (adults/children up to 17)
Free: Children under 8 (with paying adult)
Free: Veterans / Active Military